National Register of Historic Places to List FHU's Old Main
Freed-Hardeman University’s Old Main Administration Building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Jaime L. Destefano, historic preservation specialist with the Tennessee Historical Commission.
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.
The cornerstone of Old Main was laid in November, 1907, to house the National Teacher’s Normal and Business College. The building was completed in September, 1908, in time for the fall term at a cost of $35,000.
Despite a grim economic situation in the country including the Panic of 1907, President A.G. Freed and vice president N.B. Hardeman secured $7000 in cash and J.D. Johnson and J.G. Hardeman directed a joint stock company to secure pledges for the remaining money. Freed and Hardeman eventually assumed responsibility for the entire mortgage.
Hubert T. McGee was the architect for the building. A native of Jacks Creek and an alumnus of one of FHU’s predecessor institutions, he also drew plans for the Chester County Courthouse, Hardeman House, Hall-Roland Hall, and most notably, Clarence Saunders’ Pink Palace in Memphis.
Old Main reflects early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival and Italianate-style elements. It features a centered, two-story portico with brick arches and Ionic columns, buff-colored brick, limestone keystones, brick quoins, gabled dormers, and domed cupola with bell. The formal architectural design was executed with local craftsmen, local labor and local resources. “The building bears the stamp of the community in which it resides,” Erin Adams, former FHU archivist said. Bricks were kilned on Mill Street and it is believed all timbers were processed on site.
According to the registry application, “Henderson citizens Pete Trice, Joe McCorkle and Glen Ledbetter hauled brick from Mill Street for the project. Jess O’Dair, chief carpenter, made the window casings and doorframes. Will Roberts and Walter Thorogood laid the brick and it is believed Roberts also laid the arches in the entrance of the building.”
In a 1913-14 school catalog, Freed descried the building as “the finest and the best” college building in the entire South. It contained a large auditorium, library, music rooms, several classrooms, two offices, a bookstore, post office, and lobbies. Today, it houses the university’s School of Arts and Humanities, the school’s archives, and Chapel Hall. Fittingly enough, music is still taught within its confines.
Inclusion on the National Register requires that a property be old enough to be considered historic, that it look much as it did in the past, and that it be associated with important events, activities, or developments in the past.
Freed-Hardeman plans a fund raising effort to restore Old Main.